Jerome’s Prologue to Chronicles

This prologue gives us an interesting view into the history of St Jerome’s translation work, and some very important information about the Septuagint in the world of his day. It appears that in addition to Origen’s Hexaplaric text, and the other well-known Septuagintal texts, he had done a corrected Latin version of the Septuagint, which unfortunately is entirely lost to us. One of the interesting things in this prologue is the mention of Jerome separating “lines into members” (per versuum cola). That is, he has separated the members, the individual words, with spaces, which was then rarely done, but so common now that we don’t even notice it.

The name “Paralipomenon” means, “things left over.” The book was called this because it included things not mentioned in Kings. I can remember being fascinated as a child by the exotic mystery of that name, Paralipomenon, like incense, silk, and the Faith itself, being something from the ancient world, in contrast to the much more prosaic Chronicles, a boring, uninteresting name to be found at the top of the local paper, and more redolent of the supermarket and gas station. But enough about me! Enjoy the continuing saga of the feisty St Jerome!

[See also the final draft version of this translation, on this page]

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BEGINNING OF THE PROLOGUE OF SAINT JEROME TO THE BOOK OF PARALIPOMENON

If the version of the Seventy translators is pure and has remained as it was rendered by them into Greek, you have urged me on superfluously, my Cromatius, most holy and most learned of bishops, that I translated the Hebrew scrolls into Latin words. For what has formerly won the ears of men and strengthened the faith of those being born to the Church was indeed proper to be approved by our silence. Now, in fact, when different versions are held by a variety of regions, and this genuine and ancient translation is corrupted and violated, you have considered our opinion, either to judge which of the many is the true one, or to put together new work with old work, and shutting off to the Jews, as it is said, “a horn to pierce the eyes.” The region of Alexandria and Egypt praises in their Seventy the authority of Hesychius; the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the version of Lucian the Martyr; in the middle, between these provinces, the people of Palestine read the books which, having been labored over by Origen, Eusebius and Pamphilius published. And all the world contends among them with this threefold variety. And Origen certainly not only put together the texts of four editions, writing the words in a single row so that one regularly differing may be compared to others agreeing among themselves, but what is more audacious, into the edition of the Seventy he mixed the edition of Theodotion, marking with asterisks those things which were missing, and placing virgules by those things which are seen to be superfulous. If, therefore, it was allowed to others not to hold what they once accepted, and after the seventy chambers, which are considered without a single author, individual chambers were opened, and thus is read in the churches what the Seventy did not know, why do my (fellow) Latins not accept me, who thus put together the new with the inviolate old edition so that I might make my work acceptable to the Hebrews and, what is greater than these, to the authors, the Apostles? I have recently written a book, “On the best kind of translating,” showing these things in the Gospel, and others similar to these, to be found in the books of the Hebrews: “Out of Egypt I called my son,” and “For he will be called a Nazarene,” and “They will look on him whom they have pierced,” and that of the Apostle, “Things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and had not arisen in the heart of man, which God has prepared for those loving Him.” The Apostles and Evangelists were certainly acquainted with (the version of) the Seventy interpreters, but from where (were) they (supposed) to say these things which are not in the Seventy? Christ our God, author of both Testaments, says in the Gospel according to John, “He who believes in me, as Scripture has said, Rivers of living water will flow from his belly.” Certainly, whatever is witnessed by the Savior to be written, is written. Where is it written? The Seventy don’t have it; the Church ignores the apocrypha; thus the turning back to the Hebrew (books), from which the Lord spoke and and the disciples took forth texts. In peace I will say these things of the ancients, and I respond only to my detractors, who bite me with dogs’ teeth, slandering me in public, speaking at corners, the same (being) both accusers and defenders, when approving for others what they reprove me for, as though virtue and error were not in conflict, but change with the author. I have recalled another edition of the Seventy translators corrected from the Greek to have been distributed by us, and me not to need to be considered their enemy, which things I always explain in the gatherings of the brothers. And what is now Dabreiamin, that is, Words of the Days, I have translated. I have therefore made the foreignness of the meanings clearer, and have separated lines into members, so that the inextribcable spaces and forest of names, which are confused through the error of the scribes, are, as Hismenius says, “themselves singing to me and mine,” even if the ears of others are deaf.

END OF THE PROLOGUE

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6 Responses to Jerome’s Prologue to Chronicles

  1. Roger Pearse says:

    Excellent idea to translate these! Well done!

  2. Thanks Roger! I’m greatly enjoying it, and my Latin is improving by it, as well. It’s a win for all involved!

  3. Pingback: Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot » Blog Archive » Biblical Studies Carnival - Best of 2006

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  5. josh waxman says:

    Hi.

    I was recently doing some translation that made reference to Jerome’s preface to Chronicles (Divrei haYamim). See here:

    http://parsha.blogspot.com/2008/02/age-of-trup-part-xxiv.html

    But the quote I am looking for is not in the translated preface above, or in your linked-to draft version. I have seen this text cited elsewhere, and finally found a (rough, I think) translation. The Latin is:
    “Denique, cum a me nuper litteris flagitassetis, ut vobis librum Paralipomenon latino sermone transferrem, de Tiberiade quemdam Legis Doctorem qui apud Habraeos admirationi habebatur assumpsi: et contuli cum eo a vertice, ut ajunt, usque ad extremum unguem: et sic confirmatus, ausus sum facere, quod juhebatis. Libere enim vobis loquor, ita in Graecis et Latinis codicibus hic nominum liber vitiosus est, ut non tam Hebraea quam barbara quaedam et Sarmitica nomina conjecta arbitrandum sit.”

    and the English translation I found is at my website. Are there perhaps different variant texts of Jerome’s introduction to Chronicles? Did he have different introductions, and I am looking at the wrong one? Or perhaps a variant text arose because of Christian attitudes Jews, such that his reliance upon a Jewish Tiberian scholar could have played a role in the omission of this segment?

    My first source for this citation is Shmuel David Luzzatto, who wrote:
    “It is in the letter to Domenion and Dogacianos, which begins (Quomodo) and is recorded as well in the book Biblia, in the introduction to the recording of Divrei HaYamim.” {=Chronicles}
    But see the links I have there, to references to this text specifically in the second place, Jerome’s introduction to Chronicles.

    All the best,
    Josh

  6. josh waxman says:

    Thanks!
    I’ll correct my post.

    All the best,
    Josh

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